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Book Review: by Lang Reid
Robert Cooper, whose previous books include Culture Shock! Thailand and The
Thais Mean Business has another book on the Bookazine shelves, Thailand
Beyond the Fringe (ISBN 978-981-261-429-2, Marshall Cavendish, 2007).
This latest book is a collection of very short essays, much like Culture
Shock! Thailand, with each only between one to three pages long. He does not
mince his words in his descriptions of foreigners, such as in the piece on
“Vanishing Virginity” where he opines that virginity is still an important
state and writes, “This might surprise some of those less perceptive farang,
who think that all Thais are whores.”
The language does tend to be earthy (or even downright crude) which I have
to say I do not appreciate in the written word. Gratuitous at best.
There are 100 vignettes and as a nice touch, there is a postscript at the
end of each one, with witty bon mots, such as, “On finding your wife dancing
naked in your local, don’t change the bar, change the wife.”
Ostensibly, the book is a primer for foreigners so they will not commit
gaffes, and eventually rise up through the society levels in Thailand. This
book does not really do that. Many of the chapters are simply contrived,
such as the several pages given over to inverted nipples, with this
affliction being touted as demonstrating high classes within the Thai
society. Perhaps thought of as a light and humorous break, the descriptions
of the quest in finding this anatomical diversion were tiresome, rather than
There are, however, some chapters which do get down to the nitty gritty of
Thai society, such as the one on Matriarchy, Mothers and Money. Despite what
the Bangkok Thais might lead you to believe, it is the women who run the
country and rule the roost. Author Cooper mentions the Thai phrase which
described women as the “hind legs of the elephant”, but then goes on to show
that the women are the dominant force these days. Since all foreigners who
marry Thais end up with a Thai mother-in-law, there are some very pertinent
facts in this chapter. The bottom line postscript reads, “Love your
Mother-in-law and your wife will love you.”
Unfortunately, he has too many irrelevant chapters in this book which not
only cheapens the publication, but also weakens the message in the better
and more salient chapters. For example, a chapter called “On masturbating
alone” does very little for me, or for the majority of readers I would
imagine. Exhorting one to ensure that one is not noticed by others when in
‘flagrante delicto’ would have to be fairly obvious, I am sure.
At the end of the book is one section denoting words that author Cooper
advises the reader not to use (so why spell them out, I wonder) followed by
an explanation of some Thai words used in the text.
This is a weighty book and at B. 550, reasonably priced. It does have many
vignettes of life in Thailand, but there is a little too much repetition. I
would have preferred longer and better chapters..
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